Often it helps to be well-informed before watching a film. Most of the time it’s good to know what you’re letting yourself in for, otherwise nasty shocks or mind-numbing tedium could follow. Pacific Rim, doesn’t give too much away in its title but it’d be hard to mistake the film’s intentions after watching the trailer. It said to me, ‘colossal, metal, building-sized action-figures piloted by humans fight equally large monsters’, and the 10 year-old inside me went all giddy with excitement. With this in mind I never expected Pacific Rim to deliver more than a gigantic action spectacle with incredible visuals, and it certainly lived up to that.
The set-up for Pacific Rim is established succinctly in an opening montage documenting the first Kaiju (that’s monster to you and me) attack and the subsequent response by humanity to create massive battle robots known as Jaegers to combat them. Everything goes well until Kaiju attacks increase and humanity is on its last legs. Marshall Staker Pentecost (Idris Elba) rounds up the surviving Jaegers and pilots in a last-ditch attempt to stop the Kaiju once and for all. It’s standard blockbuster fare, but well-crafted even if some of the dialogue errs on the cheesy side. Screenwriter Travis Beacham embraces the science-fiction elements in a way that is entirely light and playful. Here’s a rough explanation of Jaeger-tech;
The neural load of piloting a gigantic Jaeger is too much for one pilot to sustain, therefore two pilots are linked together with a neural handshake. The pilots mind-meld and share memories in ‘the drift’ thus enabling them to perform the same actions.
“Huh?”, I hear you ask, well that’s exactly the point. Rather than worry about any scientific inaccuracies, the writers have gone for imaginative science. It sounds cool and it fills in the explanation gaps with a flourish. On the subject of cool-sounding names, the main Jaegers are Gipsy Danger, Crimson Typhoon, Striker Eureka, and Cherno Alpha. They must have had a ball coming up with those, and there’s more where they came from…
The characters chosen to populate this very near future war are generic at best, but again I think they are drawn as such to keep things on the lighter side. The story is end-of-the-world stuff but by no means dark. For example, the scientists Dr. Geiszler and Dr. Gottlieb (Charlie Day and Burn Gorman) are primarily there for some sciency chat and humourous bickering. For all you del Toro regulars, Ron Perlman also makes an appearance in top scene-stealing form. The stereotypical nature of the cast emphasises the theme of human unity and a certain togetherness that only apocalypses seem to produce; there’s Australians, Americans, Russians, Chinese, Japanese and even a German. One interesting moment of character development comes when Raleigh Becket (a frankly terrible Charlie Hunnam) steps into Mako Mori’s (Rinko Kikuchi) memories, and it’s possibly the best scene in the whole movie.
That scene and the rest of the film benefits from director Guillermo del Toro’s ability to create eye-catching worlds. The detail is impressive and I really appreciate the lengths that del Toro went to use practical effects. In fact, each Jaeger cockpit was a fully moving set where the actors were strapped in and shaken around to get a realistic performance. They were also drenched with water too – tough gig. Speaking of the Jaegers, and their Kaiju opponents, they all display fantastic creativity and variation in their design. If anything, I want a sequel just so I can feast my eyes on more elaborately crafted Jaegers. Del Toro is a master of getting his vivid imagination onto the screen – you can see it in the Hellboy films and I’m not surprised that Peter Jackson initially chose him to direct The Hobbit films.
If the majority of Pacific Rim stems from Guillermo del Toro, then it is a sincere love-letter to the original run of monster movies that was started way back in 1954 with Godzilla, produced by Toho and directed by Ishirō Honda. It pays tribute to these old classics while standing apart to delight a whole new generation in the monster movie genre. As someone who enjoyed the Godzilla remake as a kid and watched Godzilla: The Series, Pacific Rim was a rollicking good time for me and I would like to give Guillermo del Toro a firm neural handshake to convey my thanks.
As an added extra, here is the trailer for Pacific Rim, in classic Toho style: